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You are, fundamentally, alone.

This is a thought that comes to me over and over again. In all of these online communities, in any sort of virtual world, there is no one but you. That is why it never quite feels right, why we still make the distinction between the online domain and Real Life. The differences are vast, and I do not think they can be breached within the binary boundaries of our transmissions.

We sit here, behind our glowing computer screens, pecking away at our keyboards, feeling like we are somehow talking to someone else, that there is someone else at the other side of the monitor, at another terminal. And very often, from a purely objective point of view, there is indeed someone else at the other end, although their personality is hidden underneath the cyphers, the ASCII, the smileys, the internet abbrevations, the jargon, and other peculiarities of the cultural language that has spawned in the web servers. So long as there is a monitor between us, we cannot fulfill our social nature.

The illusion is very convincing sometimes. There are times when you reach out to the person on the other end, or you think you do. You start to develop affections, alliances, loyalties, indifferences, distrusts, and enmities. Just like Real Life. But these are often short-lived and unmasked for the farces that they are. The Other Person can be so much more selective about the sketch that they draw, as can you. Smoke and mirrors abound.

It is a highly masturbatory act. That is why it never feels as good as the real thing. Why are people so much more egocentric online? I have seen it happen, even within myself. The shyest kid will become the most vocal member of an online community, precisely because she feels as if she could basically be alone with her own thoughts, even in the chat room. She can sit, alone, with the cathode ray tube hitting her eyes, and type away. There are no responsibilities, no fears; all shame is gone. This is text that does not affect her life. It is an escapist fantasy. She can exclaim whatever comes into her head and await attention and response. There is no need to empathise with the text of others, and the others too will ignore her own, fundamentally. Misunderstandings are inevitable. This is not dialogue. It is an incongrous mish-mash of intertwined monologues. Even young children talking to each other in their sleep have deeper interaction than this.

It has something to do with the very medium. When compared to a real human being of flesh and bone, text is as nourishing as three grains of rice. Aren't you hungry for a lot more? Here you can receive but the smallest trickle of a person's totality. People deserve to be digested much more thoroughly than this. Let me see the glimmer in your eyes, the rising and falling of your chest when a beautiful sunset makes you sigh, or the upward curl of your lips when you feel complacent. Let me hear the intonation of your voice, the words you emphasise, the pronounciation of the words. Let me hear the meaningless particles you introduce into your speech as you hunt for the right words and the gushing of air into your lungs as you prepare the next sentence. Let me follow the direction your eyes turn, and the emotions you brandish on your brow. Hell, even the awkward silences, I want those too, because that is more real than any server lag will ever be.

Let me make you a part of me, just like any real person I meet always is. What say you to a cup of coffee at five, far away from the cybercafé?

The irony of this text and its mode of presentation is not lost to me.

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